HM: ASEAN to launch defence ministers hotline this year

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A HOTLINE for defence ministers in ASEAN will be launched this year, said His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.

The announcement was made by the Defence Minister and Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) yesterday in a titah during the 55th RBAF anniversary celebration at the Defence Academy, Tanah Jambu.

Also known as Direct Communications Link (DCL), the hotline will enable defence ministers of the 10-nation bloc to communicate directly and arrive at mutual decisions in handling crises.

His Majesty initially broached the hotline proposal during Brunei’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2013, seeking to defuse misunderstandings, prevent unintended incidents and promote rapid response to emergency situations, particularly in maritime security.

The monarch previously said the DCL, which was subsequently taken up under the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) framework, will further help to build trust and confidence.

Commenting on the sultanate’s active participation in ADMM and ADMM Plus, His Majesty said it is a sign of their commitment and capability in strengthening the country’s position in the midst of a dynamic security landscape.

The Sultan further noted Brunei is able to contribute to regional security as well as provide a platform for a wide range of defence and military cooperation despite being a small country.

“Undoubtedly, this is one of the biggest contributions that could help ASEAN member countries and dialogue partners in Asia Pacific to enjoy peace, stability and prosperity together,” said His Majesty, adding that Brunei has intensified efforts in defence diplomacy.

The monarch cited the sultanate’s co-chairing of the ADMM Plus Maritime Security and Counter-Terrorism Exercise last month as a successful example.

Meanwhile, RBAF Commander Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Major General Dato Paduka Seri Mohd Tawih Abdullah expressed confidence the DCL will pave the way for open and transparent communication among the defence ministers.

“We hope when this is implemented, we will see better communication between the ASEAN defence ministers,” he said in an interview with local media yesterday.

He described the impending launch as a “very significant” step towards fostering mutual understanding as the hotline will provide defence ministers with the means to communicate with one another directly.

“We’ll see how it develops and how practical it is... Within ASEAN, I don’t think there would be any major problems in implementing this initiative,” said the commander.

The Brunei Times